As motorists hang on to cars longer, AA flags wear and tear issues

With more motorists hanging on to their vehicles longer these days, the AA is calling on drivers, particularly those formerly used to driving newer models, to stay on top of their recommended car servicing schedule and react to changes in their vehicle’s performance such as reduced braking power or poor vehicle handling.

The AA which attends in the region of 140,000 breakdowns annually indicates that their Patrols have seen a significant increase in breakdowns from Members driving older cars over the past three years.  A side effect of both the suppressed new car market and an under zealous approach to basic car maintenance by some drivers the organization believes.

Using the bench mark of AA Members driving 2006 registered vehicles during 2010, the AA reports that its breakdown call outs to four year old vehicles has increased by 15% since the end of 2007.

“It’s at about the four year old mark, depending of course on the car’s annual mileage rate, the first signs of wear and tear will begin to show on a car.” Comments Noel Keogh, Head of AA Rescue. 

“Hence it’s at this point from both a safety and environmentally friendly perspective that mandatory car testing is enforced right across the EU.” After four years the AA reports that suspension issues with a car’s wishbones, bushings, anti roll bars and drop links are likely to occur. 

The organization also reports that worn tyres are often a problem on cars of this age.  While every car differs, a high performance vehicle could get as little as 8,000 Kilometre’s form a set of tyres for example, it is likely that a family saloon car doing 12,500 kilometers per annum will require new tyres after four years.

“Motorists should check their tyre thread depth regularly,” says Keogh “The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm in Ireland, but in fact that is too low. Here at the AA, we recommend changing a tyre when the tread depth is down to 3mm.  Keeping your tyres at the correct level of inflation will also significantly increase their life span.  Tyres under inflated by 10% below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, can result in the life expectancy of the tyre to be reduced by up to 15%.”

On average 16% of the AA’s call outs to four year old cars over the past three years have been as a result of punctures.  In addition to flat tyres the most common faults AA Patrols detect in four years old vehicles are faulty or worn out batteries, followed by alternator, engine and clutch related defects.

A review of the 2007 registered vehicles that AA Car Servicing mechanics have processed this year to date also shines the spot light on the degree of wear that happens to a vehicle’s braking system after four years on the road.

“The majority of cars of this age that our mechanics have serviced this year as part of our new on-the-spot car servicing offering have required at least one of the following replaced within a few thousand kilometers –  the brake pads, the brake pads and discs or new tyres,” reports Keogh.

While modern technology has made brake failure a rarity these days, not having full brake power is a huge cause for concern advises the AA.  Motorists who hear any unusual squealing, clicks or grinding noises when they brake or who notice the brake fluid warning light coming on on their dash should get their brakes checked, regardless of when they’re due for their next service.

Signs your brakes may need attention:

  • There’s a slight high pitched ringing/squealing when you brake.
  • You feel an abnormal vibrating when braking.
  • Your brake feels softer to depress than normal.
  • You notice your stopping distances have increased.
  • You hear a grinding sound when the brakes are applied.  (If this is the case, it could be a sign that the brake discs are being damaged by worn brake pads)
  • Your brake fluid warning light is flashing/permanently lit up on your dash board.  This may be due to the fact that your brake fluid reservoir level has dropped.  

A podcast of AA Patrol, Stuart O’ Toole, demonstrating the important cost and safety benefits of sticking to your vehicle’s recommended car service can be viewed at: www.blog.aaireland.ie.

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